Matthias Daehling, countertenor – a profile

Matthias will be singing the role of Hamor in Handel’s oratorio Jephtha at this year’s Festival alongside soloists from London’s top conservatoires and backed by local choral societies. The concert, conducted by Paul Spicer and accompanied by Southern Pro Musica, takes place on 18th March at 7.30pm.

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?

Although I was already a competent violin and viola player, I discovered my voice relatively late on, at the age of 20. Quite soon I discovered the timbre of modern British countertenors, such as Michael Chance and Iestyn Davies, whose rounded and rich voices appeal to me, while being quite different from the American approach which aims to sound more like a strong female alto voice or the lighter, other-worldly French one.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

Having to live under a visa in Britain. Brexit has made everyone’s lives harder, but especially for performers who come from outside the UK. Also, coming from a family without a background in the music industry it felt like a big step to embark on a musical profession, which is one that’s not without its risks.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

A collaboration feels wonderful when it works well. There is no better feeling as a musician than an ensemble really coming together in a performance. However, in some instances people may be able to work well on their own but not in a team. Sometimes that’s got something to do with a miss-match of timbres, which especially as a countertenor can be part of the charm but also a curse.

Are there any composers for whom you feel a particular affinity?

As a countertenor, one needs to have a certain affinity for the music of Handel and Bach and I am no exception to that. Apart from that I recently discovered my passion for songs written by composers such as Mahler, Schubert and Philip Glass.

Which works do you think you perform best?

Having an instrumental background, I feel like being honest and respectful of the voice of the composer is one of my biggest strengths. This works especially well in music composed by J.S. Bach, who is a composer who was so detailed in his work that there is literally no place to make oneself the centre of attention.

Which performances are you most proud of?

In 2021 I took part in Shostakovich’s The Nose at the Bayerische Staatsoper Munich. It’s an unusual role for a countertenor to be cast as, and it was my first proper performance in an opera house. At the other end of the scale, I found it very wholesome to perform for my grandmother in her nursing home in Hamburg, who always used to be so proud of me for becoming a singer.

What are your most memorable concert experiences, either as a performer, composer or listener?

I visited Prague as a string player in one of the local youth orchestras in Hamburg. On our journey we stopped at a WW2 labour camp. I there got the opportunity to play a a string quartet by Erwin Schulhoff, an Austro-Czech composer and pianist, in an attic where they used to do concerts during wartime. This was a very moving experience,  I’ll never forget! Schulhoff was one of the figures in the generation of European musicians whose successful careers were prematurely terminated by the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany and whose works have been rarely noted or performed.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Don’t take it too seriously when you set out. Try to resist the pressure people might put onto you of having to rehearse all day: your interest must be genuine, and you should be led by your own instincts, not someone else’s. Don’t think of it as making your hobby your job, either. It’s hard work, but if you have fun exploring new things then you’ll gain great satisfaction from it all.

How would you define success as a musician?

Doing what you do best and being happy with that.

What would you like to be doing in 5 years’ time?

As one of the Monteverdi Choir Young Apprentices in their 2023/24 season, it would be a dream of mine to work as a soloist with the Monteverdi Choir at some point in the future as well. I’m doing several performances of Bach’s Mass in B Minor with them in April, which I am greatly looking forward to.

What are you looking most forward to when performing at the Petersfield Musical Festival this year?

It’s going to be the first time I’ve sung this role, although I am familiar with Jephtha having worked on it with my countertenor role model
Michael Chance. I’m looking forward to the beautiful duet with Iphis (“These labours past, how happy we!”), and to working with a group of young singers from the other conservatoires in London!

About Matthias

Matthias Daehling is a German countertenor currently studying for a Master’s degree at the Royal College of Music with Sally Burgess. He is generously supported in the UK as a Big Give Award Holder and a DAAD scholar.

Recent highlights include CD recordings of Telemann cantatas with both the Neumeyer Consort and barockwerk hamburg as well as various soloistic performances in Germany and the UK. Another recent highlight includes the first performances of two mini-operas, co-produced by the RCM and the opera company Tête-à-Tête.

Matthias is passionate about song repertoire and increasing the recognition for the countertenor voice in this area. He is part of the 2022/23 ‘Wigmore Hall French Song Exchange’ and will appear in recitals at the Wigmore Hall and the Salle Cortot this year.

In the 2023/24 season, Matthias will be a member of the Monteverdi Choir ‘Young Apprentices’ scheme. In the autumn of 2021 he gave his stage debut in a new production of Shostakovich’s “The Nose” at the Bayerische Staatsoper Munich under the baton of Vladimir Jurowski.

Matthias has participated in masterclasses given by Michael Chance, Daniel Taylor, Ian Partridge, Lynne Dawson and Philippe Jaroussky. Since 2016 he has been studying privately with German alto Ulla Groenewold, Hamburg.